SANDY, Utah — When the 2011 schedules were released by Major League Soccer, it was easy to circle June as a difficult month for Real Salt Lake. In fact, it’s likely the most difficult month of the season from a schedule standpoint.
June is one of two months (the other being September) in which the team plays six league matches. In addition, there is a US Open Cup match at the end of the month. The team also knew they would likely be missing a few key pieces for Gold Cup duty (Álvaro Saborío, Will Johnson, Arturo Alvarez are all with their respective national teams).
However, it’s still a bit of a shock now that it’s actually here, especially with a couple of key injuries (Javier Morales, Paulo Jr.) that are exacerbating the problem.
“We’re in a little bit of a different spot than in prior occasions where we’ve got three matches in a week,” admitted coach Jason Kreis. “On prior occasions, we’ve been a little deeper.”
He went on to add that he’s still “kind of weighing through that decision” on how to handle the roster through this stretch.
However, one option is that key players such as Nat Borchers, Jámison Olave, Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando and Fabián Espíndola may play extended minutes this month. In fact, it may not be out of the question that they would play in all of the matches.
“I think they’re very capable of it,” said Kreis. “These guys are extremely fit. We know that. They’re also extremely resilient. And maybe they play a few more games this month than is typical, and maybe we’ll look for a rest for them on down the line.”
Borchers, as most players probably would, welcomes the prospect.
“I feel that I get more fit the more games that I play,” said Borchers, “and it’s more fun to play in games than it is to train. That’s what you want to do when you play at this level — you want to play games. I’m ready for the challenge, and hopefully I’m asked to do that. For me it’s a big deal to play all of these games, and I think there are plenty of guys on the team that feel that way.”
Espíndola is hoping that he can muster up the energy and health to also contribute in each of these matches.
“I’m going to try,” he said. “I have to. This time, we don’t have any forwards left. I hope I’m healthy for all of these games.”
Midfielder Ned Grabavoy, who is also likely to see a lot of field time during this stretch, admits that it will be a challenge.
“I think we’ll be tested a little bit, fitness and fatigue-wise,” said Grabavoy. “We need to play smart. We need to give ourselves a chance to win.”
Grabavoy is convinced that it’s going to take a complete team effort to be able to survive the rigors of this month.
“There’s going to be guys getting extended minutes that probably haven’t seen that in the beginning part of the season. We just need those guys to come in and try their hardest, and give us a lift, whether that’s off the bench or different guys are starting.”